The Gifted Hands Network is an initiative created by Andrew Mukose, a young entrepreneur who wanted to solve two of Uganda’s most pressing problems – breast cancer and employment for the visually impaired. This organisation aims to reduce breast cancer deaths by training blind people to become medically certified tactile examiners. Mukose is one of 200 young leaders who have been selected to become a part of the inaugural Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa programme that convened for five days in Johannesburg beginning on 14 July 2018.
“The Gifted Hands Network is my dream come to life thanks to the hardships faced by my mother and other blind women in our country and communities,” says Mukose. “We recruit blind women and empower them to become medically trained examiners, allowing them to use their heightened tactile senses to detect breast cancer.”
Mukose’s work is inspired by his mother, a single parent who was a highly successful lecturer at a university in Uganda until she lost her sight due to a tragic car accident. She was forced to stop working, leaving the single-parent family facing enormous financial and emotional strain as they tried to get by without a steady income.
“The hardships we endured as a family as a result of this accident inspired me to make a difference, to change how our communities treat and perceive the blind and the visually-impaired,” says Mukose. “There are more than 1.6 million blind people living in Uganda and more than 90% of them are unable to find jobs. They are generally perceived as unproductive and incapable of working. I wanted to build a business that capitalised on their blindness, not penalised them for it.”
Gifted Hands has detected early breast cancer in more than 3,000 women in Uganda and trained an additional 300 women to become medical tactile examiners. It’s essential work in a country that not only has high levels of unemployment for the visually impaired, but also high levels of breast cancer.
For Mukose, his selection as an Obama Foundation Leader is an opportunity to raise awareness and create even more opportunities for those who work with, and for, the Gifted Hands Network.